Hi! Happy dos dos-dos dos-zero-dos-dos.
As we approach Christmas and the general holiday season we want to share the four active drivers of happiness from Yale's Research on Happiness:
We will take this as an assignment particularly well suited for this time of year. We're thankful for so many things and somewhere in that lengthy list we appreciate you for spending some portion of your valuable time reading through what we share. Thank you and Merry Christmas and have a Happy New Year.
A quick note about the last issue: apparently the web archive thingy doesn't do UTMs, so none of the links in the last section worked. We fixed it, but you need to view the web version of that newsletter to click through. So anyone that was ready to dive into all that, start here.
In issue 78 Calvin made me laugh out loud, like literally (and by that I mean the actually literally not the way the kids use it today which literally doesn't mean literally).
Our general workflow for these things is there's a lot of back and forth getting content and words together then when things are almost ready Calvin as the OG founder and Chief Comma Officer does a final touch up and hits send.
His stern “Get out” to my opening salvo (which I read along with you having never seen it before) about ya'll vs y'all was unexpected and made me wonder if for maybe the 3rd time in my life I had crossed a line I should have thought more about before crossing.
This seems to be correct as I’ve had a number of folks in “my dm’s” giving me the business about my spelling of “ya’ll”.
So I reconsidered.
And I’ve decided I’m right. Sorry ya’ll.
Calvin- I’m so sorry…. But sometimes you’ve got to die on the hill you’ve needlessly created out of a mole hill to justify your own chronic inability to spell a very simple word.
Irregardlessly, as recompense for my lack of contrition I have put together an abbreviated and weird single topic issue that is weird and wonderful and probably will delight about 5 of our subscribers.
Circa 1998 I played an online role playing game called Ultima Online. The internet and online role playing games were the wild wild west back then and it felt like anything could happen. Let me share a couple of gems from back in the day...
And yes that is spelled correctly and don't give me any guff about it.
How YA doing.
ALL of the things.
Y A ' A L L.
If you say ya'll I guarantee the base word in your vocabulary sounds much more like YUH than YUU. We can't always trust the science, especially when it comes to the best 2nd person plural available to English speakers ("yinz" anyone? )
Hit reply and let us know the worst 2nd person you've heard....
Anyhoo... enjoy these links ya'll!
The first couple 'versions' of the Internet were basically limited by technological infrastructure and our imagination. We spent time exploring, and now we're trying some new things as a response to most of our Internet lives being owned and controlled by a handful of giant tech companies.
The key words and phrases to know are:
There's your very basic starter kit to understanding the rest of this newsletter.
We assume that by now you've been able to read all of the content we sent out a couple months ago. It was a lot, and we wanted to give you ample time to process, ya know. Going silent for a couple weeks or months is totally our style, and we know it's one of your favorite things about us.
For this issue, Calvin will be playing the role of enthusiastic and optimistic early-adopter-type nerd, and Brian will be playing the role of nostalgic and pessimistic old man yelling at clouds. We're going to talk about Web 3.0.
The Obesity Epidemic
In the seminal novel Dune, people are tested by sticking their hand in a box that simulates great pain. If they remove their hand from the box they are immediately killed with a poisoned weapon called the Gom Jabbar. If you pass the test you are declared a human instead of an animal, the theory being that the difference between the two is the ability for the human brain to override the "lizard brain" underneath our conscious awareness.
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:5-8
In the middle of a global pandemic I discovered Cheddar Chex Mix. The bag opens and the smell wafts into my sinuses. Nothing can then prevent the consumption of the materiel save the depletion of the inventory. Oddly enough this reminds me of meeting my wife. Unlike my wife, I don't keep Cheddar Chex Mix in my home anymore.
In Brandon Sanderson's epic Stormlight Archive series, semi-spiritual beings called Spren, embody concepts like dusk and joy. The largest are like continental plates buried in the earth, slowly sliding from place to place, bringing subtle but impossible to avoid despair and grief to those above.
In Malcolm Gladwell's oft-overlooked collection of essays on the financial crisis he meets a goose who has come into a whole field of grain all to itself. The goose gorges itself until it is literally so large it can't fly away and is promptly eaten by a coyote.
Katie and I have traveled to a lot of places together. I've traveled to even more by myself. Doing this makes you realize how many of the hard edges of life have been smoothed off and sanded down in America. Nothing is hard. Parking is plentiful. Cashiers make change for you. Bathrooms are free and 100% of them have an actual toilet and not a hole in the ground. Cars never just can't fit down a street. 2,000 calories is never more than $5 and 5 minutes away.
Men talking to their doctor about real things is hard because it means we aren't perfect and perfectly under control and perfectly immortal. The first time I talked to my doctor about my panic attacks was hard. The first time I talked to my doctor about my weight was infinitely harder. I told him I feel like I just do what everyone else around me does. I don't seem to eat more than them and I'm always outside playing disc golf or walking the dog or whatever. I do the same things as all these skinny people around me.
"Well, that is obviously not completely true".
There are many theories for the complete loss of control of our body weights in modern society. It is happening in almost every culture around the world. It is happening to farm animals and lab rats. Rich and poor are impacted (although poor disproportionately, like most societal ills).
Is this problem caused by individual behavior? Have our mental disciplinary physiognomies been eroding slowly and mysteriously for decades until only the Sphinx's soft round nose remains where once before stood crisp, lined beauty? Violet Beauregarde, Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, and MikeTeavee just needed to keep themselves in check as they wandered through Wonka's Waffle Horror House?
Or is there some underlying headwind that makes that ever harder? Wonka's chocolate mill was crafted to relentlessly thrash until the chaff turned to dust.
Before 1970, you could eat lard and white bread and red meat and glasses of whole milk with every meal and a coke float for an afternoon pick me up every day and never think about your weight and have a BMI of 10. Everyone did that. After 1970, you can eat a plain salad and a chicken breast and spend an inordinate amount of time and energy and treasure thinking about your weight and have a BMI of 35.
What happened? Probably not one single thing. Probably just a change here and a change there and under mounting pressure more of our will walls started to leak around the edges. If we were stronger we could stand against it. Many do. But just under half of us now have nostrils submerged, we fear forever.
While human will-power may play a (leading?) part we can be confident that every human pre-1970 wasn't uniquely iron disciplined but now some plurality of us has magically transformed into animals incapable of delayed gratification. And yet it seems only human will-power stands any chance of turning the tide for any single victim. But that's never enough. Not for me, anyway.
It could be the weaponization of cheap, craveable foods like the bacon egg and cheese biscuit and Easy Mac and pints of Phish Food ice cream. It could be the complete and utter travesty that is the 30 year reign of the food pyramid. It could be 100% exposure to air conditioning moves the insulation requirements of our bodies in the wrong direction. It could be some new chemical pollutant or combination of isotopes that is now ever-present in the modern world. It could be a gene that could never survive when life was harder but now that some condition has changed conveys some advantage, somehow. It could be the drop in casual tobacco burning in places like teacher break rooms and airplane rows and lunchrooms which subliminally suppressed our appetites.
Whether it is internal to the individual, an effect of the environment, or some combination of the two, the innate weight setpoints of 40% of us have moved. Via herculean effort we can live below those setpoints for a time. But the moment we stop heaving the boulder up that hill our bodies roll right back to that setpoint.
Mine is 312.
We are 40% of America today. And that percent has not yet peaked. Other countries are ahead or behind us, but almost all are drifting in the same direction as us.
For those of us who are in that 40% it is extremely frustrating and pushes us into dark boxes of self hatred and jealousy. Like a vampire I am invisible in mirrors, whenever possible. "Why me", "What is wrong with you", "You are such a fat bastard", and on and on and on we castigate ourselves.
This is not me asking for your pity for me. Or for us. I'm just explaining. Your pity doesn't help us. I don't know how you can help us. But I do appreciate your empathy. Always.
This is an unsolved mystery. The day to day mechanics are extremely well understood. Eat less. Move more. It is just that simple. And that is simply more unhelpful than ever. That knowledge is not solving the problem and so I ask if it is true knowledge at all?
So after a growing streak of back to back weekly issues we felt we needed to give you just a little bit of space lest you tire of our company. But not too much space...
This isn't a themed issue, per se, but it has a little bit of a lean towards the topic of environmental stewardship.
We want to provide your synapses with content that is interesting, diverse, cerebral, and surprising. We want to give you things we disagree with or that you disagree with but that are well thought out. We want to engage in a way that is empathetic and charitable. That challenges. That doesn't thicken the soap walls of our bubbles. And maybe we like to try to make each other laugh from time to time.
Hopefully we can meander in that direction this week.
Feel free to forward us along to your smart and good looking friends. And as always, we want to hear your opinions; hit us up via that Reply button. Also please note we've got a lot of text in this issue. If your email client clips off the back end you can find an online, gloriously un-clipped version here.
We've got some sort of new technology now operating in the background that will make reading and responding to your replies to this newsletter not only possible but positively easy. And to those of you who have emailed us before it is probable that one of us read your response. But not assured. And for that we are sorry. Moving forward please shoot us your thoughts, disagreements, or lavish praise just by clicking that reply button.
As part of rolling out this new tech, a discussion between us has started about what the email address that you receive this newsletter from should actually be. Calvin is the OG founder and so it currently comes to you from [email protected] but most email clients should also pick up the meta text and display it as Calvin and Brian. You may see us change the actual email address sometime in the near future so if that happens don't be confused.
To that end we need your suggestions on what the email address should be. The @markasread.email part is locked. But the [email protected] can be anything. Since we both live(d) in Memphis we perhaps could adopt a Memphis flavor? The current leading candidate is Junt Yeeter Manes @markasread.email which is 100% going to confuse any non-Memphian and honestly most Memphians as well so probably we should keep exploring the space.
Tell us what you think it should be. If we pick yours we'll absolutely positively probably give you credit in a shout out in a future edition.